Ensuring hive success this August 2014

Honey is coming off and swarms are continuing later this year. Here’s some tips for moving bees out of the supers.

This is a recap of Michigan State University Extension visits with commercial and hobby beekeepers over the last month with a look to the future. Knapweeds, white and yellow sweet clover, wild carrot, vine crops, birdsfoot trefoil, and early goldenrods and buckwheat are providing a fine honey crop this time of year, and beekeepers around the Bay and Thumb areas are harvesting honey. But, what’s the best way to get the bees out of the super?

Tips for moving bees out of supers

Moving bees out of the supers can be a challenge, but there are a few techniques that work well. Bee blowers force air through the frames of a super that is stood on its end, and blows the bees out into the bee yard. These require some sort of power source at the bee yard.

A more flexible solution is a fume board, which can easily be made from scrap hive top materials and some absorbent fabric. A small amount of chemical repellent is applied to the absorbent material in a zig-zag pattern and when the fume board is placed on the top of the honey super, the repellent drives bees down into the lower boxes. Common repellents include butyric anhydride-based products (Bee Go, Honey Robber), and benzaldehyde-based products (Bee-Quick, Bee Dun). Both work well, but benzaldehyde smells much better for the clumsy beekeeper that gets it on their hands. To make the repellent work faster, paint the top of the fume board black so that it heats up in the sun. Don’t apply it to the frames, and don’t over-soak the absorbent fabric. 

Homemade fumeboard Homemade fumeboard
A homemade fumeboard with an old sweater turned inside out, stretched and held in place by thin slats of wood on all sides.

If you only have a few colonies a bee brush is the answer.  Remove one frame at a time, shake the bees off and brush off the remaining bees.  Put the bee-free frame in an empty super and cover it.  Repeat with the next frame.  You may have a few bees that stay on the frames, but they’ll go to the windows or lights in the room your extracting in.

More late swarms this year

This year has been providing lots of late swarms, compared to other years. If it’s an easy catch, it may be worth grabbing. They may not build up enough to overwinter themselves, but you could take some brood from one of your strongest hives to boost the late swarm hive. Commercial keepers would use such a hive to ship to California for the winter and earn some money for almond pollination. Or, you could use a late swarm as a source for brood and honey frames to build up your other hives. However, when mixing with bees of an unknown background, you always risk spreading diseases to your good hives.

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